November 7, 2011: Sunday evening I participated in Tucson’s All Souls Procession. I joined Amanda, Eric, Heather, Monica, and other friends and loved ones of my son Gabe. Gabe had participated in years past; this was my first time.
The procession started at University and 4th Avenue, proceeded south to Congress, then went west to the large “mercado” area past I-10 where stages were set up. People in and out of costume walked and watched. There were floats and groups. Eric carried a photo of Gabe. A couple of my friends joined us, carrying photos of their deceased fathers. Further down the route, we joined other colleagues of Eric and Gabe’s from the ASU School of Social Work.
Thousands of people used the event to remember loved ones, marching as individuals, in groups, some with amazing costumes and/or floats. For a time we followed a group dressed as giraffes, remembering Watoto, the giraffe who perished at the Reid Park Zoo this year. Our group stopped at the slide show the School of Social Work had set up on the side of a building in downtown Tucson with images of Gabe. Gabe’s mom joined us for a bit there. We continued on to the performance/finale area. There we watched the urn of prayers hoisted into the air by a huge crane, set down in a tower structure, then ignited while acrobats performed a hundred feet above.
I was stuck by the extraordinary combination of expressions of love for ones lost, artistic expressions, physical commitment to the trek of several miles once done, and common purpose and community. I’ve heard 20,000 people participated. The All Souls Procession is a truly amazing and intense experience. BEYOND will attempt to include those elements in the various events on January 7th. Rather than one place, our events will be dispersed, hopefully reaching out as broadly as possible across our communities. Perhaps in time it will grow as All Souls has into an important expression of the Southern Arizona’s reverence for those we’ve lost.
Here are photos of some friends from the evening–